Monday, September 25, 2017

The Misfortune of Marion Palm

Title:  The Misfortune of Marion Palm
Author:  Emily Culliton
Publication Information:  Knopf. 2017. 304 pages.

ISBN:  1524731900 / 978-1524731908

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Marion Palm is on the lam."

Favorite Quote:  "It still astounds her that as a family they collectively did nothing. It must have been hard to do so little. It had to be."

Marion Palm walks out on her family - her husband and her two young daughters. Is it to be a journey of self-discovery? Is it to be foul play? Is there a secret life to be discovered? The book has so many directions in which it can go. How will it move forward?

Therein lies the issue for me. The book does not truly move forward. It moves backwards into Marion's past and the reasons she gets to this point. However, that past is not about her marriage or her children. They are almost an aside for her. Her past reaches back to her childhood, and the journey by which Marion Palm learns to steal. She is, in her own words, not a thief but a "woman who embezzles." It satisfies a need in her, and she is seemingly good at it. She has managed to embezzle almost $200,000 from her daughters' school. Fear of getting caught supposedly makes her run, but as the story develops, perhaps that is not the only reason she runs. Constraints of family seem not to be for Marion Palm.

Therein lies the other issue for me. The other perspectives in this book are those of Marion Palm's husband and her daughters even though they may not necessarily be the center of her story. Nathan has inherited a trust fund and is otherwise a struggling author. He is also completely self-involved. His is not surprised by Marion's departure, nor does he seem overly concerned.

Ginny and Jane, one a teenager and the other even younger face their own issues which have something to do with their mother but not entirely. They are abandoned by their mother at a restaurant, but that seems not the have the impact you think it might. They act out and get into trouble, but again that seems less about their mother's disappearance than about an entire dysfunctional household. Jane's story also encompasses an autistic boy who goes missing at the same time. I am still not entire sure what role that plays in this entire book.

Marion's all deal with Marion's disappearance in their own way, but, at the same time, nobody seems overly concerned. The most concerned individuals in the book seem to be the school board member who want to reclaim the embezzled money and the detective who is investigating the matter. They seem to be commentary on the Palm family, which is clearly dysfunctional and scattered.

Unfortunately, none of the main character generate interest or empathy. I keep reading to see if the story develops. Will there be a reckoning for Marion's embezzling? Will there be a resolution to Nathan and Marion's marriage? Will the need of young children impact a mother's decisions? There really is not a conclusion. The book ends somewhat as it begins; the only plot point seems to be that Marion Palm walks out on her family. To some extent, the entire book feels like the middle of a story. I want to know more about the beginning, and I want there to be an ending that brings closure.

The marketing for the book promises wit and humor. Sadly, I find neither in the book. It is a sad snapshot with unlikable characters. The marketing also promises an adventurous "bad girl" heroine. I am all for "bad girl" heroines to cheer for. However, I find myself not cheering for this one.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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